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Stages of Pooja

Thursday, October 4, 2007
  • Anyone travelling across Trinidad’s landscape will notice triangular flags on bamboo poles.
  • These prayer flags are of different colours.
  • They indicate that the family performed a recent pooja

As one travels across Trinidad, one notices triangular flags on bamboo poles at the front of houses and at entrances to streets. Those at the front of houses identify the residence of a hindu family.

These prayer flags are of different colours and indicate that the family has performed a recent Pooja (Puja). The colour indicates to which hindu diety the pooja was performed.

The colour of the jhandi (flag) and the associated diety is as follows: Hanuman (red), Satnarayan (white), Surujnarayan (red), Lakshmi (pink), Durga (yellow), Saraswatie (white), Ganesh (yellow/pink), Krishna (yellow), Shiva (white), Ram (yellow) and Naw Graha (two red, two white).

Before a pooja (puja) could be performed a “bedi” or earthen altar is prepared and is decorated with various religious artifacts. The structure of the bedi follows an ancient hindu geometric pattern with the pundit sitting facing a northerly direction while the devotee faces eastwards.

Every pooja consist of sixteen steps and is generally performed by a pundit. Hereunder are the various steps:

First step is Avahana or invocation: The puranic mantra is: “O God of Gods, Brilliance incarnate, protector of the world, the best of gods, come accept my puja.”

In salutation to gods, the worshipper says “om” and offers rice grains (aksata) and flowers.

Second step is Asana or seat: The god is offered a seat on the altar and recitation of sacred verse takes place, puranic verses is later evolution of Hinduism are here recited.

Third step is Padya: The deity is offered water for washing his/her feet. Recitation of puranic verses follows.

Fourth step is Arghya: The god is offered water for washing his hands while recitation of puranic mantras are chanted.

Fifth step is Acamana: The god is offered water for rinsing mouth while recitation of a puranic mantra is offered.

Sixth step is Snana or bath: The god’s image is bathe in water or in a mixture of milk, yogurt, ghee, honey and sugar (pancamrita). Recitation of a puranic mantra takes place.

Seventh step is Vastra or apparel: Two apparels are offered to the deity while recitation of puranic mantras are chanted.

Eight step is Upavastra (quasi—apparel): The god is offered yajnopavita and recitation of puranic mantras are recited.

Nineth step is Chandana or Gandha Samarpana: The god is offered sandal-wood paste while appropriate recitation of puranic mantras are chanted.

Tenth step is Puspa Samarpana: Here the god is offered flowers while recitation of a puranic mantra is chanted.

Eleventh step is Dhupa: The deity is offered burnt perfume as recitation of a puranic mantra is chanted.

Twelfth step is Dipa Samarpana: This consists of offering light‚ to the god. Oil lamps (deya) are moved in a circle in the vertical plane. Usually in clockwise direction. There are specific rules regarding the number of arati (circular motions) to be offered. In certain cases the arati is moved to and fro. Recitation of puranic verses are chanted while this act is performed.

Thirteenth step of Naivedya symbolises the food offered to the god to the recitation of puranic verses. In a minor puja milk with sugar or sugar porridge are offered. And in the major puja the offering is called maha naivedya (“great” naivedya) when rich sweet dishes are offered. While offering the food the worshipper acts as if he is feeding the god. The following mantra is recalled in silence: om pranaya svaha, om apanaya svaha, om vyanaya svaha, om udanaya svaha, om brahmane svaha.

Fourteenth step is Namaskara or obeisance. The devotee prostrates before the image once, thrice or five times while recitation of puranic mantras continues.

Fifteenth step is Pradaksina: Recitation of a Puranic mantra takes place while the worshipper makes pradaksinas or circumambulation of the alter.

Sixteenth and final step is Mantrapuspa or “flowers of mantra” while recitation of a puranic mantra by pundit.

At the end of each pooja special prayers are offered seeking the diety’s forgiveness for any inadvertent omission in the ritual. The pundit accepts full responsibility for any deviation from the prescribed mantras to be recited and the precision of the format.

The pooja terminates with prostrations at the altar by the devotee and the offering of flowers and dakshina or financial donations.

The appropriate jhandi of prayer flag is then raised in the front of the home.

Satnarayan Maharaj is the

secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha


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